Is it legal to dock nonexempts' pay if they clock in late after breaks?

Q. We give employees the choice of using two 10-minute breaks each day or combining them into one 20-minute lunch break. The employees are required to punch out and in for these breaks. Now, we have a policy that docks employees 15 minutes’ pay if they’re four or more minutes late returning from a break. Is this legal?

What are the legal risks of layoffs?

Q. In recent months, a sharp decline in revenue has forced us to consider downsizing. What are the legal risks associated with a layoff, and how can we minimize them?

Is it legal to require a lie detector test in California?


Q. I am in the process of interviewing candidates for an administrative position. This person would work very closely with me, and I need to trust him or her completely. Can I bring in a polygraph expert and use lie detector tests during the final interviews?

Are we required to grant leave for holidays and pay extra if employees have to work?

Q. Several of my employees have asked me about which holidays they have time off, and if that time will be paid. Do I have to give my employees any time off for holidays? If so, must it be paid time off?

Under California law, do victims of domestic violence have unique leave rights?

Q. We suspect that one of our employees is a victim of domestic violence. What are the leave requirements for domestic violence victims under California law?

Is comp time in lieu of overtime legal?

Q. We have a team of nonexempt hourly employees who will soon be putting in significant overtime for an important project. May we compensate them for their overtime work with additional paid vacation time equal to the total accrued overtime?

Do we have leave obligations to help a potential victim of domestic violence?

Q. One of our employees may be a victim of family violence. What are our legal obligations to provide leave for family violence victims under Texas and federal law?

Can job ads request U.S. work authorization?

Q. Our 40-employee company advertises for jobs internationally but we aren’t able to offer sponsorship to any candidate who is not legally able to work in the United States. I realize we can’t put “Prefer U.S. citizen” on a job ad, but can we alert candidates to our requirement?

Same worker, different work: Can pay rate change?

Q. Is it legal to pay a nonexempt employee to work at a company event at a lower hourly rate than what we typically pay her? The event is a conference where staff would be answering questions and giving out information.

Must we ever pay for long commuting time?

Q. An employee’s workday begins at a site location, which could be an hour or more from his home. There is no other “corporate office” location. It is my understanding that travel time to work (wherever that may be) is not compensable. Is that always true? What if that first work location is a long way from home?

Under what circumstances can we demand alcohol testing? We suspect employee is impaired

Q. We have been finding empty beer cans just outside our facility on a regular basis. We suspect one employee in particular since he often has slurred speech and stumbles around. We understand alcoholism is a disability, but we are fearful that he will get hurt because he is impaired. Should we ask him to submit to alcohol testing?”

What restrictions can we place on employees taking time off to vote?


Q. With elections coming up we have started to think about what we can do to manage when employees are taking time to vote. Our policy says they can take time off the morning of an election. Can we ask them to go after work? Can we tell them when in the morning they can take off to vote? Can we tell them how long they can take to vote? Can we deduct pay if they take too long?

California: What wage-and-hour issues come into play when an employee telecommutes?

Q. We recently started permitting one of our employees to telecommute on certain days of the week. We are concerned about tracking this employee’s hours. What wage-and-hour concerns should we consider for telecommuting employees?

Must we grant access to personnel records?


Q. One of our former employees has asked to see his personnel file. Are we required to grant him access to it?

Not contesting unemployment: legal or illegal?

Q. We have a challenging employee who is not really a poor performer, but is generally disliked by her co-workers. She is a gossip and games the system on our attendance policy. She seems to needlessly start minor squabbles with other employees. Recently, this employee approached HR and offered to resign if the company would agree not to fight her request for unemployment. We feel like this is a good opportunity to get rid of a problem employee without terminating her, and unemployment benefits would be a small price to pay. Is there any reason why we shouldn’t accept her resignation and agree to not challenge her unemployment claim?
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